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oDesk Reaches $1 Billion Spent Cumulatively via its Online Workplace

By 2018, Online Work Market Projected to Surpass $5 Billion

A long tail of specialized professionals is emerging as businesses access skills they need viathe Internet – almost 2,400 skills were listed on oDesk in the last twelve months.

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – August 5, 2013 – oDesk®, the world’s largest online workplace, today announced that more than $1 billion (U.S.) has been spent on work conducted via its platform. This milestone highlights significant disruption taking place in the way businesses staff and in the way people work. Data also released today by oDesk underscores how online work is fulfilling increasing demand for specialized professionals. Startups especially are turning to online work as tech innovations make it easier to start a business from anywhere. This “rise of the rest” movement can be seen in data looking at where online hiring is happening, which shows rapid growth spanning from 100% to 1000% annually over the past two years in the top emerging startup communities outside of Silicon Valley.

“Work is no longer a place,” said Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk. “Businesses are building flexible, distributed teams which create more economic opportunity for everyone. Online work is especially empowering startups in emerging hot spots, as the Internet connects them with the skilled professionals they need.”

Announcement highlights:

oDesk released data that shows how it is transforming the world of work, including how a long tail of specialists is emerging online. For example:

  • Online work is taking off – $1 billion+ has been spent on oDesk alone.
  • oDesk has more than four million registered freelancers today, and 2.6 million skills tests proving their expertise were completed in the last twelve months alone.
  • A long tail of skills is emerging
    • In 2007 just four categories of skills represented 90% of spend on oDesk.
    • By 2012, 35 categories represented 90% of spend.
  • Almost 2,400 skills were listed on oDesk in the last twelve months and this number continues to climb.

New data on U.S. hiring hot spots on oDesk shows where businesses are tapping into talent online:

  • More than half (58%) of businesses hiring on oDesk classify themselves as startups. The availability of “talent-as-a-service” is empowering startups everywhere, by increasing flexible access to the skills they need for growth.
  • Last year, startups in the West did the most hiring through oDesk ($104M) while the South came in a strong second ($63M), followed by the Northeast ($43M) and the Midwest ($22M).
  • In 2012, the top five metro areas using oDesk to hire online workers were 1) the San Francisco Bay Area, California, 2) New York, New York, 3) Los Angeles, California, 4) Chicago, Illinois, and 5) Boston, Massachusetts.
  • All reporting more than 100% annual growth each of the past two years at a minimum (and up to 1000% annual growth), the top five fastest-growing online hiring hotbeds are primarily locations affiliated with universities: 1) Amarillo, Texas, 2) Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 3) Chico, California, 4) Lubbock, Texas and 5) Wichita, Kansas.

Online work has arrived

This spring The Economist pronounced that “‘talent exchanges’ on the web are starting to transform the world of work.”[1]

The online work market grew 67% in 2012, according to Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), and is expected to reach $2 billion by 2014. oDesk, ranked the market leader in SIA’s “2012 Online Staffing Competitive Landscape Report,” is the first company in the space to reach $1 billion cumulative in spend.

Says Swart: “Today, it’s all about finding the right people to work together. Bringing the work to the worker via the Internet is quickly becoming the norm. Businesses want the best talent to ensure their competitiveness, and professionals want freedom and flexibility.”

Previous work models restrict business success

According to Stanford Associate Professor and Director of oDesk Research Ramesh Johari, the biggest staffing friction for businesses has historically been finding an available worker with the skills needed. And despite a tight economy, there is widespread recognition that skills gaps still exist. In fact, 66% of multinational companies say “talent shortages are likely to affect their bottom line in the next 5 years.”[2]

Online workplaces are creating a flexible, global community of businesses and professionals who can now work together to close these talent gaps.

On-demand access to skills is empowering businesses everywhere, especially startups

In addition to a growing number of enterprise companies, 58% of businesses hiring on oDesk classify themselves as startups[3]. These businesses are gaining access to the skills they may not otherwise be able to find or hire.

Many hiring on oDesk exemplify a new era of entrepreneurship — coined by AOL co-founder Steve Case as the “rise of the rest” — in which cloud computing is making it easier to start and grow businesses. Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Research defines oDesk’s role in this entrepreneurial era as: “‘talent-as-a-service,’ offering virtual workers on-demand.”[4]

According to Case: “the ‘rise of the rest’ will play a key role driving economic growth and creating new jobs… Over the past three decades, startups created 40M American jobs, accounting for all the new job creation during that period.”[5]

As businesses staff up online, a long tail market for specialized skills is emerging

Opening up access between businesses and freelancers everywhere is generating a long tail market for increasingly specialized skills. Popularized by Chris Anderson, the term long tail describes a business strategy of selling a large number of unique things with relatively small quantities sold of each. The Internet is an enabler of long tail markets, as suppliers of these more unique items are able to find demand.[6]

As work roles become more specialized, this increasingly “long tail” job market trend is highly evident on oDesk – logical given the ability to find specialists online for specific project needs on-demand. While just four categories of skills represented 90% of spend on oDesk in 2007, 35 categories represented 90% of spend in 2012, with another 40+ categories growing quickly. A visualization of the long tail of specialized skills on oDesk is available here and more details on it are here.

Additional resources

  • Full materials for this announcement are available here.
  • For more information on online work in general, please also visit The oDesk Client Resource Center, launching today. The Resource Center includes:
    • A new ebook with guidance from businesses hiring online workers
    • Videos of oDesk clients sharing their personal best practices
    • A general online work FAQ

About oDesk

oDesk (www.oDesk.com) is the world’s largest online workplace, enabling businesses and freelancers to work together on-demand via the Internet.

By using technology to remove the barriers of traditional hiring, oDesk’s platform aligns businesses’ talent needs with freelancers’ desire to work when and where they want, on projects of their choosing. More than 35 million hours were worked on oDesk in 2012.

oDesk is a registered trademark of oDesk Corporation. Other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.



Shoshana Deutschkron, Director of Communications


[1] June 2013 issue

[2] A June 2012 study by the Economist Intelligence Unit

[3] oDesk 2012 Online Work Study

[4] Collaborative Economy Report, June 2013

[5] WSJ, February 2013

[6] Wikipedia “Long tail” entry, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_tail